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In the Focus

Liang Yongye, 2018 Junior Faculty Award: "Scientific research is not a job; It is part of my life."

Oct 6, 2018 Special Report

Associate Professor Liang Yongye is deeply focused on his work in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. For the recent award of the 2018 Junior Faculty conferred by Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech), Liang Yongye said that this is an affirmation and encouragement for his work and will inspire him to do better research and teaching in the future.

Thinking back on his time at SUSTech thus far, Liang Yongye said that the goal of the reform of higher education at SUSTech, along with the strategic positioning of internationalization and the relaxed academic environment made him deeply interested in working here. Liang Yongye completed his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago and worked as a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University. The growing prosperity of the motherland, the improving domestic research conditions and his sense of belonging to China prompted him to embark on the road to returning to China. Choosing SUSTech was based on the recommendations of many people. Liang Yongye said: "When I graduated in 2009, Professor He Chuan from the University of Chicago recommended SUSTech to me. Later, some good friends who returned to China also recommended SUSTech. After I fully understood what SUSTech stood for, I recognized it. The development philosophy of SUSTech was what made me come here and try it."

His proudest research results have been widely recognized by peers

When looking at Liang Yongye's past experiences, the most striking thing was that he was selected as one of the world's hottest research paper scientists according to Science Focus in 2011. According to the papers published in 2011, papers with a number of citations ranked in the top one-thousandth (0.001%) are popular papers, and those scientists with more than 10 popular research papers are selected as the most popular research paper scientists. In addition, Liang Yongye has been selected as a highly cited scientist by several research institutions in the past two years.

Liang Yongye walked through every step thoroughly. In Liang Yongye's view, the thing he feels most proud of is that some representative work results have been widely recognized by peers at each stage of research. During his Ph.D., he developed the best performing polymer solar cell materials at that time. During the post-doctoral period, he developed inorganic nano-carbon composite electrocatalysts. He developed high quantum yield near-infrared two-zone bioimaging dyes and high-performance molecule/nano-carbon composite electrocatalysts at Southern University of Science and Technology. These achievements gave him confidence.

Liang Yongye's research work focuses on functional molecular design and synthesis, collaborative characterization and application, and development of advanced molecular functional materials. His research is mainly engaged in bioimaging, electrocatalysis, and organic electronics. At present, Liang Yongye is working on the near-infrared two-zone bioimaging molecular dye project and the molecular/nanocarbon composite electrocatalyst project, developing the best dyes in the world and has great potential applications in tumor imaging and surgical navigation. In addition, there has been a clinical conversion in the detection of highly sensitive biomarkers. In the molecular/nanocarbon composite electrocatalyst project, he proposed a new type of electrocatalyst design, which has shown good performance in many new energy conversion reactions. This project has good commercial application potential in areas such as a catalyst for metal-air batteries.

So far, Liang Yongye has presided over more than 10 scientific research projects and published more than 90 high-level papers. As of August 2018, his papers have been cited more than 26,000 times, with an H factor of 44. For the experience of doing high-level papers, Liang Yongye summed up three points. One is to have a deep understanding of relevant research; another is to have originality and to be at the forefront of academic research; the third is to be reliable and to strive for excellence.

When talking about the experience of scientific research, Liang Yongye recalled what his professors taught him when he was a graduate student. Research should focus on originality and making distinctive features. Liang Yongye never forgot these lessons which have subsequently influenced his scientific research. In his pursuit for scientific knowledge, Liang Yongye tells us that he has always dreamed of surpassing his Ph.D. supervisor, University of Chicago Professor Yu Luping, and Stanford University postdoctoral supervisor Professor Dai Hongjie. Both of them have made outstanding achievements in their respective fields. He was candid in admitting that his goals are difficult to achieve, but the fire of his dreams has never been extinguished. "As long as there can be more than one," he joked. For his students, Liang Yongye also looks forward to and encourages them to surpass themselves.

"Scientific research is my hobby."

Liang Yongye's paper citation rate is very high. Behind the high-quality essay writing is the persistence that most people can't see. We believe that the struggle behind the achievements is more inspiring and educational for people.

While most people live a regular schedule, Liang Yongye’s daily life lacks regularity. He often adjusts his work time according to the needs of scientific research. Asked about his hobbies, Liang Yongye said: "The input is very important, scientific research is my hobby. Scientific research is a favorite thing, not a job; it is a part of life." In Liang Yongye's view, his scientific research and life are blended together. It is difficult to separate, for other hobbies in ordinary life, for he is always around scientific research. When it comes to scientific research, his eyes sparkle.

Liang Yongye's doctoral students Jiang Zhanhe and Wang Yang also admire the professionalism and efforts of their mentor: "In research, Liang is very rigorous and serious. He goes down to the laboratory every day to direct experiments. He does a lot of work in scientific research. Scientific research takes up almost every day of life, that’s why he can write such high-citing papers."

Scientific research can cultivate students' spirit of concentration

Liang Yongye's dedicated and rigorous attitude to scientific research set a good example to his students. He once said to the students in the first class of "Chemistry": "SUSTech is a science and engineering university. I encourage you to do some scientific research. In fact, we need the spirit of doing research in life and in different fields of work in the future." Liang Yongye believes that many students will not embark on the path of scientific research, but he encourages students to do research. The core of the scientific research is to enable students to learn how to research and concentrate. He believes that this is the essence of building a "high-level research university."

Interestingly, for his own students, Liang Yongye joked that he gave them free rein, and encouraged them to develop freely. However, they contacted him every week, carried out topic discussions and exchanges of study and work, and sometimes got to know their progress of study and work by dining with students. For undergraduates, Liang Yongye encourages them to experience more, practice more, find things they like and are interested in, and find a direction that suits them. For graduate students, Liang Yongye encouraged them to study freely, but his requirements in thesis writing are extremely strict, and they must cultivate good habits around focus, study, and education in order to gain something.

When talking about the specific methods of teaching students, Liang Yongye vividly compares, "just like teaching them to cook; I will not give them a recipe, let them do it in this way, what to do in the first step, the second step, the third step, all the way to the end. I will tell them what the ingredients are, what the methods are, and then let them try to make them themselves."

After the interview, Liang Yongye rushed to the laboratory to guide students in experiments. Walking on the road, he is hurrying, steady and focused, just like walking on his scientific research road, always moving forward, solid and confident.


Liang Yongye graduated from the Chemistry Department of Nanjing University in 2003 and received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 2009. He then went to Stanford University in the United States for postdoctoral research. Since September 2012, he has worked full-time at Southern University of Science and Technology as an associate professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. In 2012, he was selected as one of the world's hottest paper scientists in the 2011 “Scientific Focus” and ranked tenth. In 2013, he was selected into the Class B of the Shenzhen Peacock Project. In 2016, he was selected as “Guangdong Province Top Talents.” Thomson Reuters (Clarivate Analytics) 2016, 2017 Global Highly Cited Author (Chemistry), Elsevier 2016, 2017 China Highly Cited Scholar (Material Science).

Interview: Miao Xuening Sun Jiayu

Text: Miao Xuening Sun Jiayu

Translated and Adapted: Chris Edwards

Proofread: Xia Yingying

Photo: Zhang Xiaoyan

Design: Qiu Jun


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